Japanese sub hits Pinoy-manned tanker but it’s no Pearl Harbor

BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven -
TOKYO, Japan – The fourth major story on the front page of The Japan Times yesterday morning was headlined: "SUBMERGED MSDF SUB, TANKER BUMP."

The subhead was quick to report: "No Injuries or Spill." The main photo portrayed the damaged tail fin of the submarine Asashio. The story went that a Maritime Self-Defense submarine "cruising just below the surface Tuesday morning collided with a chemical tanker 60 km. off Toimisaki, Miyazaki Prefecture, but no one was injured and no spill was reported, MSDF officials said." (Under the pacifist constitution written by then Occupation Shogun, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Japan cannot officially have a Navy, therefore the Japanese Navy calls itself a "Maritime Self-Defense Force). The new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has vowed to amend the Constitution within his six-year term.

The Panamanian-registered Chemical tanker, 4,000 tons, named Spring Auster was headed for China with a crew of 16 Filipinos and a South Korean. According to the Japan Times, nobody got hurt. It seems the 2,000-ton submarine was cruising submerged with its periscope up in the course of training operations. It hit the tanker about 9:49 a.m. but because the sub crew did not immediately realize the cause of the impact, it maintained course. According to the Japanese Coast Guard, the tanker also kept to its course, unaware of the fact that the impact had come from collision with a submarine.

When they became aware of the accident, the tanker pulled into Shibushi port for an inspection and the sub Asashio arrived at Aburatsu port, for questioning. I’m afraid the sub’s Captain will have to bang his head in apology on the tatami a couple of times but may not have to face court martial, unlike the 30 Philippine officers implicated in the February 24 coup plot.

It was in the news here that the army and marine officers accused will now have to stand trial "on charges of trying to create a mutiny, violating military discipline and other related offenses."
* * *
The sun is shining bright here in Tokyo – and it’s a sort of "Indian summer" Tokyoites are experiencing – in contrast to the chill and scattered showers, and mist blowing down from the mountain the other day in the old Imperial capital of Kyoto.

We came in smoothly aboard the swift Shinkansen, one of those legendary bullet trains, which whisked us to the capital from the Shin-Osaka station in just two hours and 17 minutes. You’ve got to be on the platform on time, poised to throw your luggage aboard. The train stops, your designated coach (No 14) literally in front of you, on the designated numbered slot. The doors slide open. You’ve got to step on board promptly, because the doors will shut in only a minute or two – then the train will be noiselessly rolling out of the terminal. There is no patawad or teka-teka. The "on time" record of the Shinkansen is impeccable. If you arrive at your train platform 45 seconds too late, you’ll see only the rear end of your departing 18-coach Shinkansen. Don’t weep. There’s another Shinkansen pulling into the station from Okayama headed for Tokyo about 15 minutes later.

As it happened, we caught our train with a bit of huffing and puffing. We had miscalculated the time and the traffic, but, by golly, those taxi-drivers calmly get you there. If you’re prepared for the 100-meter dash – assisted by two young gentlemen from Philippine Airlines (the manager no less) – you’ll get there ten seconds before the doors shut. Never again, you promise yourself. But once settled into your comfortable reserved seat, you can doze off, or read a book tranquilly. The "O-bento" girl comes along with her trolley and you can buy lunch – either a well-stocked Bento Box full of shrimp, sushi, rice, pickles and other Japanese goodies, or a plastic sandwich pack (ham and cheese) or tuna. In her cart of comestibles, the young lady has everything you might desire, from mineral water, to Coca Cola, and Asahi or Sapporo beer. Even hot cohi (coffee). Enjoy. Don’t forget, if it’s a clear day, to book on the left (hidari) side of the train, so you can see Mount Fuji with its crown of eternal snow.

The express makes about three stops, of a minute each, the last ones in Yokohama and Shinagara, then you’re in immense, bustling Tokyo Station. Your bags fit neatly into a taxicab., If they’re oversize, the cabbie ties the trunk or boot down with a cord – he does this several times daily with a courteous polish. Those foolish Gaijin, he probably says in his mind. Why don’t they live out of a briefcase like sensible Japanese?

The Japanese train and subway system, in every city, is superb. There are trains going everywhere, every five minutes. A catchy tune announces the impending arrival of your train or subway car, so you can queue up properly on the station platform. I repeat. They politely queue up for everything here – even in the 7-Eleven, or Lawsons, and other convenience stores, or the Mitsukoshi department store cashier.

Coming back to my subject, the 127 million Japanese are a nation on wheels. They zip everywhere on trains or by subway (in Tokyo, the latter are called Chikatetsu). If only we could establish an efficient train and Light Rail Transit system, we could move millions of commuters daily without hindrance of traffic. It’s time we began thinking of a subway system, too. The worst thing former President Fidel V. Ramos did was to build those ugly green-painted "squatter" apartment buildings on top of the railroad right of way in Manila. We could have used that railroad-owned track now blocked by those eyesores to put in more trains, and have ourselves a credible urban rail system – thus cutting down Metro Manila’s traffic gridlock by 40 percent. And FVR put in these atrocities ruining our urban railroad service, for the benefit of a few measly squatters – who probably have sold their rights to those apartments to better-heeled people. Tear them down, I say, and get us a real railroad from Manila through Makati, and on to Angeles City for a new airport.

The right of way, incidentally, has been cleared for the Chinese-constructed railway line from Manila to Angeles City – thanks to the prodigious efforts of Vice-President Noli de Castro, who spearheaded the government campaign to get thousands of squatter families off the projected track. The government, according to DOTC Secretary Larry Mendoza, is relocating the "former" squatters to housing being erected in Cabuyao, Laguna. The railroad has introduced an additional incentive and sweetener. Every registered squatter family will get a lifetime "pass" entitling each member to ride free anywhere on the railroad for life. Who can refuse such a deal?

Let’s get that railroad finished, so we can move the International Airport from its cramped one runway and one taxiway place in NAIA to the former Clark Field – renamed of course, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

La Presidenta
GMA recently asked PAL Chairman Lucio Tan whether he would be willing to move operations to the international airport in Angeles, and Kapitan replied that he was ready to build a PAL Terminal building there and other facilities. Right now, PAL has agreed, according to its President Jim Bautista (when we had dinner in Osaka) to move from NAIA Centennial II to the new NAIA-3 Terminal once it opens in April. PAL’s operations would support 40 percent of the upkeep of that new, probably still defective Terminal – but what the heck. It’s time that "white elephant" was used, temporarily anyway.

But my suggestion is that we think of quickly getting Clark on stream. The drawback is that there is still no facility to provide aviation gas or fuel in adequate supply for air carriers already flying out of there. Another "defect" is that the airport’s master plan, which ought to be redone, puts the projected United Parcel Service (UPS) terminal on the wrong side of the two runways. This can be easily revised, if UPS is reimbursed for its initial expenses and helped to move its operations to the proper side.

Let’s get our country going – on rails, in the air, and by sea. And we’ll see a new dawn for our country, weighed down by traffic, inefficiency, bureaucratic corruption – and a sense of drift. Japan should be one of our role models in this regard.

This is a nation which built itself up completely from the ashes of World War II. American bombers had virtually leveled Japan into smoking cinders and rubble – but they bowed, accepting their defeat (but obfuscating their history in their textbooks) and diligently got back to work. And now, they’re pulling out of the recession of 1995 to prosperity again.

Even with an aging population, the Japanese are still on the go.
* * *
THE ROVING EYE . . . Straight from Hanoi, Foreign Affairs Secretary Bert Romulo flew to Cebu last Tuesday to assess whether the controversial Cebu International Convention Center being pushed by Cebu provincial Governor Gwendolyn Garcia will be ready – and safe – for the Summit meeting of the heads of state of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the arriving discussant partners like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and two other chiefs of state, as yet unconfirmed. In short, La Gloria has passed the buck to her Foreign Secretary Bert R. rather than risk offending her beloved voters in Cebu province who gave her an overwhelming victory in the last elections while Luzon voted FPJ. But reality must be the rule. I hope that Convention Center is completed in time, and passes the safety check. Whether it is used for the Summit or not, Cebuanos at least will now have a Convention Center which they can enjoy or of which they can be proud. So let’s not complain about the outcome of Romulo’s inspection. If he says "Yes," then they can pop out the champagne and fireworks. If he says "No," it would be dictated by safety considerations. We can’t play politics with the safety of our VIP visitors, particularly if they are the leaders of our fellow ASEAN states. Let me say it again: I hope they’re ready. That’s all.











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